Today we’ve got a video premiere from Texas singer/songwriter Ben Danaher. It’s a piano-driven heartbreaker just perfect for sipping bourbon and looking forward to cooler weather (maybe it’s just me, but autumn brings on my sad music mood). Besides the keys, there’s also a sweeping steel guitar to lay down just the right ambience. The video itself is simple and classy, with Ben seated at the piano in a dimly lit bar. Just perfect. RIYL: Rodney Crowell, Ben Folds (for this song anyway), Travis Meadows.
From Ben: “I wrote this song with Raquel Cole. She is so amazing with melodies and led the session by humming that melody. I was in the middle of a break up and the girl I had dated went out with one of my friends. A lot of mutual friends were there to see it go down. I felt like a spectator in a really gut wrenching movie, which was especially weird when you have gotten to know that person for so long and to all of a sudden turn a corner and flip a switch to where whatever they are doing with whoever they want is none of your business.”
More about Ben under the video!
Ben Danaher Upcoming Tour Dates
August 16 - Helotes, TX - John T. Floore Country Store (w/ Aaron Lewis)
August 17 - Austin, TX - The Saxon Pub
August 18 - The Woodlands, TX - The Big Barn - Dosey Doe
“You can hurt and still feel lucky,” Ben Danaher sings on the title track of his deeply personal debut album, ‘Still Feel Lucky.’ Coming from any other songwriter, it might sound like a simple platitude, but in Danaher’s hands, it’s something far more profound, a moment of true enlightenment in the face of unimaginable tragedy. Years of pain are wrapped up in his delivery, but still he commits to the hope and the beauty inherent in the darkness. It’s a monumental task, but one the Huffman, Texas native handles with a tenacious grace on an album that, despite being born in the fires of struggle and loss, manages to forge its own path toward peace, growth, and even joy.
That Danaher turned to music to make sense of a profoundly difficult time in his life comes as little surprise to anyone who knows him; songwriting and performing are something of a family tradition. Danaher’s father and both of his brothers played music, and there had always been instruments and recording gear around the house throughout his childhood. Songwriting was, in fact, in his blood.
“My father never had a record deal or anything, but up until the last week of his life, he was still writing music,” Danaher reflects. “When I was in high school, my brother Brett started playing guitar with Pat Green. They were on the rise and having big success in Texas, so I was watching them play for 3,000 people some nights, which was also really inspiring to me.”
Drawing on the influence of legendary troubadours like Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, and Townes Van Zandt, Danaher pursued his own path as a songwriter, first making a name for himself in Texas before relocating to Nashville in 2013. Along the way, he shared bills with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jack Ingram, Angaleena Presley, Rhett Miller, Travis Meadows, and Amanda Shires, in addition to co-writing songs for Ryan Beaver, Bonnie Bishop, Rob Baird, and Justin Halpin among others.
For his own songs, Danaher collaborated with some of Nashville fastest-rising stars, including Maren Morris, on material that blended classic country tradition with modern rock and roll sensibilities. His lyrics married hard-won wisdom and cinematic storytelling, capturing slices of life with a candid honesty that cut straight to the heart of things. Danaher quit drinking around that time, too, and began taking on extra bartending shifts to save up enough for recording sessions with producer Michael Webb, who encouraged him to bring his touring band into the studio with him.
“We got together at Mike’s house the first day and he set up a microphone in the middle of the room,” Danaher remembers. “We played the songs over and over until the grooves and arrangements all felt good, then we took those recordings home, and a week later, we came back and did it all over again until everything was totally locked in. By the time we actually headed into the studio, we had everything so tight that we cut the first seven songs in one day.”
It’s surprising to hear that an album that feels so well worn and lived-in was recorded in such a short time, but that’s part of Danaher’s magic. One spin through his debut, and it feels like you’ve known his music your whole life. That’s due in equal parts to his skillful way with memorable melodies and his gift for evocative storytelling, which conjures up vivid, fully formed characters hunting connection, the kind of men and women who might be down on their luck, but sure as heck aren’t giving up. On the soulful album opener “Hell Or Highwater,” a co-write with Morris, he mixes bluesy slide guitar and ferocious, soaring vocals in a bitter revenge fantasy, while the tender pedal steel-laden “Silver Screen” offers up a romantic ode to the last call crowd, and the slow-burning, bluesy “Jesus Can See You” calls out the hypocrisy of a particularly uncharitable Christian. “Judge and be judged isn’t that what it was that you told me alone in the dark?” he sings amid blistering fiddle and organ. “Jesus can see you breaking my heart.”
While Danaher’s character studies are riveting, it’s the moments when he turns his gaze inwards, like “My Father’s Blood,” that often hit the hardest.
“I always got told I was my father’s son or that I was just like my dad because I dreamed big,” Danaher says. “I took pride in it, and I know that he was proud of me because I was out there doing something he’d always wanted to do. I wouldn’t be living in Nashville or driving around the country in a van playing 100 shows a year if I wasn’t Bob Danaher’s son.”
It would be hard to overstate the importance of family in Danaher’s life, and the memory and influence of the loved ones he’s lost loom large throughout the album.
“Seven years ago, my other brother Kelly was murdered,” Danaher explains. “He was having a birthday party for this three-year-old daughter, and their neighbor was upset that the noise was too loud. The neighbor got into an argument with my father-in-law, and when my brother came out to see what was going on, the neighbor pulled a gun.”
The gunman ended up shooting three people before being arrested by police, and Danaher received a shocking call later that night with the news that his brother had died from his injuries.
“It took two years for the murder trial to come up, and meanwhile my dad was battling stage four cancer,” Danaher continues. “I was living in Nashville by that point, and two weeks before the trial began, I got the call saying my dad wasn’t doing so well, so I headed back to Texas. I got home and had about twelve hours with him before he passed away.”
While many of Danaher’s songs are drawn from wells of pain and loss, the music is anything but self-pitying. These are songs of revelation and redemption, reflecting a maturity and an acceptance that can only come with time and perspective. On “A Little While” and “Time Never Moves Slower,” he contemplates the impermanence of life, both in its highs and its lows, while “Getting Over Someone” reflects on the inner struggles we all face but often hide from the world, and “Over That Mountain” looks towards a day when he’ll be reunited with his brother in a better place. The album’s emotional centerpiece, though, has to be the driving title track, which stands out even on a record chock full of highlights.
“You can go through hell and get completely hardened up, but there’s always going to be this human part of you that can still feel lucky and grateful for all the good that’s in your life,” Danaher concludes. “No matter how difficult things get, in the end, there’s always hope.”
That hope is ultimately at the root of why Danaher made the album. It was a therapeutic process for him, an opportunity to make sense of the inexplicable, but it was also a chance to respond to the universe with love and gratitude despite all he’s been through.
“I’m very lucky that people want to hear my story,” he says. “If what I’ve been through can help people who listen to my music in any way, then I feel like I’ll have served my purpose in the world.”